We’ve all seen heist movies and know their predictable plot. Some scoundrel from central casting, Tom Cruise (MI3) or George Clooney (Ocean’s 11) and his team crack the vaults of the Bank of England, the headquarters of the CIA or some creepy villain’s Rome casino and proceed to haul off the loot.
All these movies have one thing in common; our target has assumed that his closely guarded possession is heist proof. Or at least, he has accounted for any combination of heists that could take place. We, the audience, sit back to relish that inevitable moment when the villain finally realizes that he has got his comeuppance.
How many businesses could we identify as having believed the same thing, that they were heist proof? The taxi industry until Uber came along? The travel agency industry until Expedia came along? The music industry until MP3 came along? The airline until SouthWest and Ryan arrived?
But maybe the narrative is too simple. Heists are complicated. They never involve walking in to the casino with a note from your mother and a handgun. They involve meticulous planning, invariably an arabesque across the ceiling and a willingness to attack the entire system.
Take banking for example. It’s not that fintech start-ups are taking out the entire industry it’s that the traditional banking business model is under attack in areas where bankers least expect. Fintechs are creating client services so fast that they reveal the vulnerability and flimsiness of the dominant players’ model.
The oft-quoted example of Kodak being taken down by it’s own disruptive technology doesn’t sufficiently explain how comfortable Kodak was with its heist proof business model. It wasn’t a single technology that would take them down it was the sense of security about the business model, the sale of film, photographic paper, processing services and so on that was their weakness.
You’ve got to ask yourself is your business heist proof? Heists usually occur on three simple fault lines:
1. Blind spots – An inability to see over the fence possibly through over confidence in the system, the product and your people. Start-ups invariably work a new seam of which you’re not fully aware. How is your competition dealing with this? Have you an incubator or accelerator in your organization? How’s that going? How many of your team are monitoring start-ups in your region? And globally?
2. Busy, Busy – Sometimes we have our heads down getting things done today. One’s zone of ignorance increases everyday. What can you admit to not knowing? What do you not know about your customers? Are they looking for something that you don’t have or might not even exist?
3. Breakdown – Speed and timing are critical to a heist. When your business model starts to crack getting to the breakdown area is going to be crucial for survival. You have to worry about how agile your business is, how good is it at reacting to changing circumstances. Being blind and busy will see the business model shift and customers moving on before you’ve got your act together. Game over.